If you’ve ever walked into a barre class and wished you brought a dictionary along with your grip socks, you’re not alone: The body-toning workout has its own special language that only those who frequent the classes fully understand. (Kind of like CrossFit or boxing.)
And the lexicon goes way beyond plié—no surprise, considering that barre class incorporates not just ballet, but components of Pilates, yoga, and even boot camp as well. Mastering the language means being able to transition from move to move as gracefully as a ballerina (dripping in sweat, natch).
To help you become fluent in barre, we tapped Bergen Wheeler, senior teacher at Exhale Core Fusion and national director of the studio’s talent development, to list—and define—the key lingo both first-timers and more advanced students need to know. She references her favorite tips from the book Barre Fitness, written by Exhale Core Fusion co-founders Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Halfpapp.
Study up and you’ll be prepped to ace your barre exam.
And if you’re in the Bridgehampton area on Saturday, August 13, come put the terms to use in an Exhale Core Fusion class—Well+Good is hosting! Class is at 9:25 a.m. and we’ll be giving out free beach bags and Degree deodorant. Click here to sign up—each class is $40.
Keep reading to learn the language of barre.
Extend: When you open the angle of a joint, you’re extending that joint. Example: going from a bent knee to a straight leg is extending your knee.
Flex: When you close the angle of a joint, you are flexing that joint. Example: bringing your toes toward your shin is flexing your foot.
Neutral spine: This occurs when the spine has its natural curves—particularly the natural curve of the lower back. When you tuck your pelvis under as one extreme and arch your lower back as the opposite extreme, a neutral spine is somewhere in between those two points.
Parallel: This is a stance where the feet look like the number 11. Usually, the feet are placed together or hip-width apart and parallel for a barre position.
Pelvic floor: The pelvic floor consists of the deepest muscles of the pelvis located between the two sitz bones from side to side and between the bases of the scrum posteriorly (the lower back) and the pubic bone anteriorly (the front of the pubic bone).
Plie: A plie is a movement in which you bend the knees and straightens them again, usually with the hips turned out and the heels pressed together.
Point: When you extend your toes away from your shin, keeping your leg muscles taut and your toes straight, this is a point. It’s the opposite of flexing your foot.
Posture: In a standing position, proper posture is ears over shoulders over hips over heels.
Pulse: A movement to the beat of the music done with a small range of motion.
Seat: Your upper thigh and glutes area, where you sit.
Shallow breathing: This is breathing high up in the lungs, in the thoracic cavity, and not allowing the abdominal area to expand when you inhale.
Stall barre: The tall piece of equipment you see in barre studios with rungs of various heights. Stretching on it helps with flexibility of the back and relives tightness. Take an overhand grip on the top rung and release your heels to hang.
Tuck: This is a position of the pelvis and is also knowns as a posterior pelvic tilt. It is established by dropping the tailbone down and pulling the abdominals up and in toward your spine.
V turnout: This is a stance where your feet look like a narrow letter V. The heels are together and lifted a few inches off the floor, and the toes are approximately 4-5 inches apart. The turnout happens from the hips.
Wide second: This is a stance where the feet are wider than hip-width apart in a V shape. The heels are either flat or lifted a few inches off the floor, and the turnout happens from the hips.
Work zone vs. comfort zone: This is a concept that allows for the consideration of exercise intensity. It’s important to understand that when you’re doing the exercises correctly, they will not be comfortable—and will feel challenging!